Solution to US prison problem on it’s way

Sarah Simon, Associate Views Editor

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill, was introduced to the senate in October. This bill, written by four Republicans and five Democrats, intends to reduce sentences for drug and gun offenses and allow prisoners to earn points for use of rehabilitation services. This bill would drastically improve the course of the United States’ war on drugs, a series of legal actions taken against drug use and distribution in the country that has been disproportionately used to persecute people of color. This legislation is essential in reducing the massive human rights issue of mass incarceration in the United States.

The United States only amounts to roughly 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet it accounts for 22 percent of the world’s imprisoned population. Indeed, according to The Prison Brief, the U.S. is ranked second in the world for highest prison ratio (prisoners per 100,000 people). This system also adversely affects black communities. Only 12 percent of the U.S. population is black, while 44 percent of the incarcerated United States’ population is black according to Amnesty International.

Unfortunately, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is far from law at this point. It has only been passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee. In order to become a law, it must also be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, and then signed by the President.

The bill, however, remains valid and important, despite its distance from becoming law. The bipartisan elements of this bill are groundbreaking. This bill combines democratic and republican senators, with support from liberal activist group the American Civil Liberties Union in addition to the conservative Koch Brothers. It has done something that nobody thought possible in 2015: getting Democrats and Republicans to work together.

President Obama’s criminal justice platform has emphasized reducing the irregularity of the drug war. Obama, and many others, anticipated seeing this bill in 2015.

The Sentence Reform and Corrections Act promises important results. Lowering minimum sentences for second- and third-time drug offenders and incentivizing rehabilitation services is fundamental to reducing the detriments of the drug war. This bill should move faster through the legislative system. Obama is committed to progress in criminal justice reform. With only 10 months left in his presidency, it is important for him to follow through on his reform platform.

Sarah is a freshman in Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]